When Park Jungsu got into that relationship, there wasn’t much to start with.
There was no courtship. There were no flowers. No bunched up bundles of carnations wrapped prettily in waves of crepe paper and no tall-stemmed roses with small notes attached. But Jungsu didn’t mind. He wasn’t a girl, after all. And, besides, he would have no idea what to do with the flowers anyway. Aside from admiring them arranged delicately inside the white antique vase he bought at a night market (which, by the way, was completely of no use) and displaying them as centerpiece in his living room and sniffing them once in a while every few minutes, he wouldn’t have anything to do with them.
There were no chocolates. No creamy geometrically-shaped solidified cocoa crammed in heart-shaped cardboard boxes on Valentine’s Day or on any other day that feels like Valentine’s Day. Jungsu knew that wasn’t a loss. Not a big one, at least. Because, really, aside from flashing them in front of Sungmin and Ryeowook to feel jealous of and devouring the luscious crumbs of melt-in-the-mouth heaven which flavors roll deliciously among his taste buds, there wasn’t anything else special about chocolate.
There were no fancy dinners. No paper mache’d lettuce drizzled with vinaigrette on fine china plates presented on velvet-covered round tables, with or without vanilla-scented candles in chestnut shell holders at the center. Jungsu didn’t want any of that. In fact, he would hate dressing up in the tuxedo set that hung at the far back of his closet. He would hate slipping on the pair of black dress pants that would make his moderately-long legs appear longer. He would hate brushing his hair to a fine gloss, and spray on some of that female-smelling perfume he bought just because he pitied the saleslady in Burberry.
Jungsu met him at a music festival. He was a photographer. Only took photos in black-and-white because, he says, that’s when photographs are the most pure. Jungsu watched him angle his chipped old camera towards the chosen subjects. Street lights, souvenir stalls, earthen pots and planters—never people, never things that breathe. Jungsu asks why. Because, he replied, I can’t give them any more of the life they already have.
Jungsu was a pianist. He has long, slender fingers that were made to glide easily across the keys. He wasn’t at the festival as a musician, wasn’t there with his music sheets and a bowtie. He wasn’t there for the attention, for the crowd. He was there to discover music beyond his expertise.
It’s a different kind of music, possibly, but that night he discovered Kim Youngwoon.
There was no courtship—no flowers, no chocolates, no hundred-dollar dinners. No phone calls, no text messages. No communication, even.
Youngwoon had a girlfriend, Lee Yoonji. She doesn’t talk much, and maybe that’s why Youngwoon liked her. Youngwoon liked silence, he preferred sitting in his darkroom and reading a Stephen King under the red light than having pointless conversations with people who thinks that they were born with a paintbrush in their hands. It isn’t love, Youngwoon had told him, if it was, I should have told her.
Jungsu had a girlfriend too, Kang Sora. She was so much like Yoonji, except that she always had something to say and nags about serious stuff like who ate the last cookie in the cookie jar. Jungsu was convinced that he loved her. He thought about marrying her, thought about waking up to the smell of breakfast in a house they would built together.
Talk. That’s what they do. Youngwoon and Jungsu talked. Youngwoon crept out of his private world and into Jungsu’s not-so private one. But that’s a lie. Youngwoon just peered into the viewfinder as Jungsu talked. He talked about food, about beaches, about magazines—Jungsu talked about everything except music, photography, and girlfriends.
Jungsu talked in a nasal voice and laughed at himself a few times too many but, somehow, Youngwoon liked that. Or not. If he did or did not, he never mentioned either way. But, then, that’s a lie too. Because behind the Mamiya that constantly hid his face, a small steady smile told tale of Youngwoon’s fondness. Fondness towards the other’s voice or the other’s laugh, he couldn’t decide. But what Youngwoon had decided on was that, whichever reason it was, he was fond of Jungsu.
“We broke up,” Youngwoon told Jungsu one day, “Yoonji and I.”
Jungsu placed a glass of Bacardi in front of his friend, “Did she tell you why?”
Youngwoon raised an eyebrow, looking from the glass to Jungsu and back, “You assume too much.”
“Because you’re a musician.”
“And you only listen to what you hear.”
Jungsu took the glass for himself and downed the spicy liquid, “Well, that’s what I do. As for you, you’re a photographer, and you only look at what you see. But since you’re talking now, would you care to make me listen to why Yoonji broke up with you?”
“I broke up with her.”
“I might only look at what I see but, unlike you, I listen to more than what is told.”
“Just what did you listen to?” Jungsu poured himself another glass, temples still throbbing from the first one.
When Kim Youngwoon got into that relationship, he didn’t know where to start.
There were no physical gifts, no professions of love, no display of affection. He wasn’t good at those, Youngwoon knew. Besides, Jungsu wasn’t a girl. He wouldn’t have anything to do with flowers, candy, or stuffed bears with knitted sweaters and no pants.
Youngwoon did what he had to do. It was a dangerous move, to say in the least. But, far more, it was a cowardly move—to get what he wanted without having to work for it, to grab what was in his reach without having to ask for it.
Jungsu doesn’t complain. And, as long as Jungsu doesn’t, Youngwoon didn’t care.